Prompt: Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
"Life is a horse race," my dad told me when I was eight years old. "You are a horse, and you have to imagine that all the other horses are faster than you. Never think that you are the horse in the lead." I was confused at the time, but my dad would just add more elaborate layers to the analogy, like rival stadiums and competing horse bidders. The core of it never changed, though: I am a horse in a race, and I must never ever fall behind.
It became my own personal mantra. I should never fall behind, I must never fall behind. I followed this saying for years. For the first couple of years I struggled in many areas as I picked up too many workloads, expecting myself to be the best in all their categories. Only later did I realize that I do not necessarily have to deliberately make myself stressed out and overburdened just to prove my own strength. Eventually, I even made my own fatherly analogy, "There is no need that I should be a pack mule".
I started taking just as difficult classes, but I took more time and worked at a more methodical pace. My main objective was to take every workload one at a time, holding each at the highest priority as I got to them. This worked well for a while, but as I grew older, and my classes became harder (accompanied by an increasing amount of assignments), my method had to change. Too much grief had already been caused in the process of figuring out that prioritizing everything was not the best idea, so I decided to find a different way to bend to my dad's analogy.
A transitional stage took place in which I struggled for months to figure out why it took me four to five hours to do homework every night whereas it only took my classmates one, at the most. I had built my body up to be able to stay awake most nights until three to four in the morning, just so that I could make sure to finish my homework and still study for tests. Unfortunately, I received my loss of sleep by falling asleep in my classes the next day. I would go through my school day exhausted and sleepy, my head feeling as though there was a thick, fluffy fog that surrounded all my thought processes.
Lifestyles are hard to change, but I have managed to finally work something out. My character has changed to adapt to a more "moderation is virtue" way of living, and I have found it to be the healthiest existence that I have ever experienced through all my trial-and-error lifestyles. I now know that although my dad had a point, his main objective was to make sure that I take advantage of my opportunities and the potential I was given to succeed at school.
It is only now that I can look back on my dad's figurative horse race and know that I completely overanalyzed it. I do not regret, however, that his words have pushed me onto a path that will lead to my success. Now, I am walking towards a future that would never have been possible otherwise, and I am very thankful for it.